The USA and Jamaica have ruled this event for the best part of a decade, but their dominance could be seriously challenged in Doha.
USA are the defending champions, but only two of their quartet from 2017 – Tori Bowie and Morolake Akinosun – form part of their relay pool in Doha. Bowie, the world 100m champion, is rounding into shape but is still some way off the form that landed her with the gold medal in London in 10.85.
In fact, the USA’s overall 100m depth this year isn’t as strong as it usually is. With a season’s best of 10.99, national champion Teahna Daniels is the fastest member of their team this year. And while all of the team members have considerable relay experience from their days in the collegiate ranks, the women named in the relay pool for Doha haven’t had many recent run-outs.
Akinosun, Deserea Bryant and Caitland Smith can take some confidence from their victory at The Match earlier this month, but their winning time of 43.36 won’t alarm the rest of the world’s top teams.
Jamaica’s squad is bolstered by double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson and multiple world and Olympic gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, both of whom have clocked 10.73 this year, but even that might not be enough to guarantee victory.
At the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London, Thompson and Fraser-Pryce teamed up with Natasha Morrison and Jonielle Smith – a near-full-strength squad based on current form – and won in 42.29, but finished just 0.01 ahead of a British team that was without two of their fastest and most experienced women: Dina Asher-Smith and Asha Philip.
Britain failed to finish in their heat at the IAAF World Relays Yokohama 2019, but that was a rare blip for a well-drilled team that in recent years has won European gold, Commonwealth gold, world silver and Olympic bronze.
European bronze medallists Germany will head to Doha as the world leaders in this event following their 41.67 victory at the recent ISTAF meeting in Berlin. Just two days prior, the same quartet – Lisa Marie Kwayie, Yasmin Kwadwo, Tatjana Pinto and Gina Luckenkemper – won in Zurich in 42.22.
In 2016, however, Germany went to Rio as the world leaders with 41.62 but was half a second down on that time in the Olympic final and had to settle for fourth place. Provided they haven’t peaked too soon, they should feature in the fight for medals.
Two-time world champion Dafne Schippers may be struggling with a back injury this year, but she still helped the Netherlands record a solid 42.28 to finish just 0.06 behind Germany in Zurich last month. If the European silver medallists can get close to their national record of 42.04, it might just be enough for a medal.
The last time China reached the women’s 4x100m final at a global championships was the 2000 Olympic Games, but their chances this year appear stronger than they ever have been.
Aside from an uncharacteristic slip-up at the World Relays, their leading quartet – Liang Xiaojing, Wei Yongli, Kong Lingwei and Ge Manqi – has gone from strength to strength this year. They won the Asian title in Doha, finished in the top three at the IAAF Diamond League meetings in Lausanne, London and Zurich, and then placed second in Berlin in 42.31, the second-fastest time ever by a Chinese team.
Switzerland, fifth in London two years ago, is the only other team this year to have bettered 43 seconds and should, barring disaster, at least reach the final.
But as ever with the relays, expect the unexpected.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF